Smiggels-Kavková: parties still fielding too few female candidates

Miroslava Němcová, photo: CTK

Most of the country’s political parties have completed their candidate lists for the upcoming election to the lower house. One question on voters’ minds was or is – without a doubt – how many top female candidates would be nominated. The Communists, the Civic Democrats and the Greens have fielded four and three top names respectively, more than the other parties. Even so, observers, including Jana Smiggels-Kavková of Forum 50% which promotes gender equality, say there is still very little to cheer about.

Jana Smiggels-Kavková, photo: Czech Television
“Unfortunately, from what I have seen so far (as not all the candidates’ lists are complete) it does not look very good. As usual, parties don’t have enough women in top positions on their lists and the majority of parties this year even nominated fewer female politicians to top positions compared to the elections in 2010. So I have to say no good news for gender equality, I’m afraid.”

The parties that have chosen more female candidates, and more top candidates, include the Civic Democrats, the Communists and the Greens. Have these parties shown – in the past – more of a willingness to field women candidates or is this something that is more or less a matter of chance?

“It’s very important here to distinguish here: the Green Party and the Communists traditionally support the idea of equality between men and women in politics. They are the only two parties that use positive measures to assemble their ballots. The Greens have a compulsory quota that among every three people on the list there should be one of the opposite sex; the aim is to have at least one-third of women on individual lists, including in top positions.

Miroslava Němcová, photo: CTK
“The Communist Party, on the other hand, uses voluntary recommendations stating there should be one woman among the top three candidates and the regions basically comply with this even if it is not in the statutes. So, when it comes to the Greens and the Communists there is not much of a difference from the last elections: the Communists have four list leaders and the Greens have three.

“What is very interesting is the situation in the Civic Democratic Party where they have chosen female candidates to top three candidates’ lists this year. The conservative party has three female leaders and this was a surprise because they used to have the fewest. In Prague they have even kind of a V.I.P. list where four or five out of the first ten are women, including the leader Miroslava Němcová. That is an important and surprising shift and a big improvement. I was very surprised in a positive way by this development and it is appreciated.”

One of the other bigger parties TOP 09 is fielding only one top female candidate and when party leader Karel Schwarzenberg was asked about it, he responded jokingly or off-the-cuff with a statement that women weren’t as interested in politics because of the allegedly poor pay or spoiled weekends. Without taking the statement out of context, it isn’t really true, is it?

Karel Schwarzenberg, photo: Filip Jandourek
“No, it definitely is not the case. We see many women involved in Czech politics and active in the parties. If you look at the share of women who are members in individual parties it is somewhere between 30 and 55 percent. More than half of the members of the Christian Democrats, for example, are women but even they have nominated only one female leader. So parties are definitely not able to work with the potential which they have and many female politicians have confirmed in conversations with me that there was discrimination and instead of getting support they aren’t getting chances. In the eight years that I have been involved, I unfortunately haven’t seen much improvement on this issue.”